Jan 31, 2020

More and More, Consumers Are Buying Gift Cards for Themselves

Although the unbeatable convenience of easily buying personalized, fun gifts is still the primary reason gift cards continue to grow in popularity, more and more consumers are buying gift cards for themselves.

The numbers show this is not a trend that merchants can ignore1:

  • Last year, 33 percent bought gift cards for self-use
  • Millennials (36 percent) and Gen X (35 percent) are more likely to purchase for self-use
  • Digital gift cards (66 percent) are more likely to be purchased for self-use than plastic (34 percent)
  • More is spent on gift cards for self-use ($51.93 average) than for gifting ($47.91 average)

Why are consumers gifting themselves?

According to Mercator Advisory Group 2, consumers are buying gift cards for themselves to use as primary payment tools. As retailers introduce new mobile apps, often with mobile payment options that include their own prepaid cards, young adults are buying retailer cards for their own use.

Of course, that’s not the only reason for the growing self-use. Other top use cases include1:

  • To shop online—51 percent
  • They took advantage of a discount or promotion—46 percent
  • From earning points of some kind—42 percent
  • From joining a loyalty or rewards program—27 percent
  • To help with budgeting—17 percent
  • From earned airline miles—14 percent

What does this mean for merchants?

As consumer buying (and spending) habits change, merchants must change, too. But, according to the 2018 NAPCO Merchant Gift Card eCommerce Report3—an annual cross-platform assessment of 100 leading brands’ gift card ecommerce programs—merchants are not keeping up. The high level of self-use should cause brands to re-examine their gift card purchasing experience, however, in the 2018 report, 74 percent of the brands evaluated received zero points for this category.

So how can merchants take advantage of this opportunity to address consumers buying gift cards for themselves? Primarily, it’s about making the buying process as quick and easy for self-use shoppers as possible. Give them the option of skipping the steps that are only necessary for gifting, like adding a recipient’s information and gift messaging. Blackhawk Network’s CashStar platform provides this expedited purchase flow for customers buying cards for themselves, making the experience faster, easier and more personalized.

1Blackhawk Network, 2018 US Spring Summit Research, conducted by Leger, March 2018.
2Mercator Advisory Group, Gift Card US Consumer Study, June 2016.
3Blackhawk Network, NAPCO Merchant Gift Card eCommerce Report, conducted by NAPCO Research, 2018.